Northwest Passage

Western South Mountain Perimeter


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I dreamed this loop up after reading about this VOAZ built trail skirting the northwest boundary of South Mountain from the End of San Juan road to 35th Ave. The plan was to find more trail East of 35th Ave that hooks up to the main system at Central, then find my way back to where I started via Kiwanis or Ranger… whichever trail inspired me.

But first I had to get there. Still enjoying the newness of the Bees Knees climb I started off at the Desert Foothills lot and jumped on the Gila. Weather was perfect if not a bit chilly at 9am. Sunny and poofy clouds galore.

Just starting the Bees Knees I met Mike and his Kubota on the trail -just putting on the finishing touches. Mike was really cool and told me how much he’s enjoyed cutting this trail and being out here the past few months. If any cities or towns (Payson) want to hire Mike to cut superb singletrack in their area, he’s available. I’ll get you his number.

On to the new connector to National. Coming off the awesome descent of Bees Knees, the climb out of the Gila valley via the new National connector was very disappointing. About 60 percent HAB. Sure it’s really loose and brand new, but it’s also really steep does not look to ever be a rideable climb by bike, at least the upper 2/3 of it. I’ll give it some time.

Out to the San Juan stone hut to find that 35th Ave connector. National from the San Juan picnic benches to the stone hut is an interesting trail. Half of it’s awesome, the other half is nothing special with a side of babyheads. But it gets you there. It was easy to find the 35 ave trail VOAZ built last year. The first quarter mile is existing old trail, not very smooth, or flowy, but after a few ups and downs, it forks right and turns into magnificent singletrack.It was really cool to be out this side of the mountain. I’ve never seen the city from here or had this vantage point of the infamous Alta trail. South Mountain continues to amaze me. I kept to trail past 35th Ave and found doubletrack and more singletrack out to 28th Ave where it hit residential and no sign of any continuing trail. Zig zaging through less than a mile of street I found the Elliot dead end trail and followed it to the 19th Ave Trailhead. Doubletrack and singletrack options all the way out to Max Delta. I’d like to explore more out here including the Warrior loop and look for something that hooks up with the Alta ridgline.

On to Ranger, love that climb, and National. Not 100 yards up National with my face buried in the climb, I heard my tire start to fizz like it was leaking Stan’s from the sidewall. I stopped looked down and reached at my tire to see where I’d torn it and instead saw the tail end a rattle slithering into the rocks. I instinctively jumped behind the bike and walked backwards, listening to the late warning. I’d ridden right over it with the front tire, my leg and left had were less than 18 inches away from the rattling tail as it slithered into the rocks. Didn’t see that coming.

No warning until after I was in range, and a warning that sounded like Stan’s leaking from a sidewall? I should have been bit. Thank you Guardian Angel. This was the first rattler I’ve seen in Phoenix in 9 years riding. I guess it was my time for a run in.

Eyes on the trail scanning ahead was all I could do while every sound from the brush below made me look…

On to Marker 33 for some tight, twisty, slow and careful rollercoaster descending down the new Ridgline trail. Here is all 9 minutes of it if you want to see the whole thing. It’s sketch. It’s fun if you can handle you bike. It’s a hikers trail for sure, but it a mountain bikers grad school for tight steep switchbacks.From the junction to the first small climb:The last bit of trail out to Desert Foothills: